January 7, 2019
The administrative court suspended the implementation of the decree on the removal of brown bears from nature, which the government endorsed at the end of last November. According to the decree, 200 bears were planned to be taken out of Slovenian forests. Among these, 175 were supposed to be shot, while the remaining 25 were expected to die due to accidents or other causes.
Related: Brown bear photography in Slovenia
In December, the environmental protection organisation Alpe Adria Green (AAG) brought an action against the decree and a request for an interim injunction. The group is convinced that the decree violates the Nature Conservation Act, the Habitats Directive and the Constitution. The AAG noted that the government endorsed the decree despite numerous complaints on its drafting, and that the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning did not answer the requests for an explanation as to why such a number of bears had to be removed from nature. At the same time, the AAG expressed its expectation that the decree will also be annulled.
This is not the first time that the court has intervened in the destiny of large wildlife in Slovenia. The same decree that involves bears previously included eleven wolves to be taken out of nature, but after a public hearing the wolves were removed from the proposed cull. The Environmental Ministry took this decision after two judgments of the administrative court, which ruled that the reason for shooting the wolves, which was given as preventing the animals from killing livestock, and thus maintaining public acceptance of wolves, was not sufficiently substantiated.
All out stories about bears in Slovenia are here.
December 10, 2018
It has been reported last week that a Slovenian hunter killed a bear called Elisio, a collar-wearing subject of research at the University of Udine, Italy. The animal was shot in the area of Senožeče, Slovenia, and has in the past five years, while wearing the tracking collar, survived a collision with a train, completed several ascents over 2100 metres, swam across Cavazzo lake several times, and figured out how to safely cross a Slovenian highway.
The event stirred a lot of outrage on the Italian side of Elisio’s territory, while it continues to remain a minor story in Slovenia. One of the reasons might be in a conservation status of the Italian subspecies of the brown bear, that is the Apennine Brown Bear, which is marked at “critically endangered”. In contrast, the Slovenian government struggles to keep the number of ordinary European brown bears in check, with the conservation status marked as “least concern”, and bear salami being an ordinary offer at the Christmas stalls found in the central marketplace of Ljubljana. The important point here is that Elisio was an ordinary brown bear, not an endangered Apennine subspecies.
There are currently about 1,000 bears in Slovenia, and the Slovenian Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning ordered this number to be reduced by 200, 175 of which will be taken out by hunters before April 30, 2019 (Delo). This is also the reason why Italian researchers reported weekly on Elisio's whereabouts, hoping this would prevent him from getting shot. It did not.
Andrej Sila, from Sežana branch of the Slovenia Forest Service, expressed regret at the incident: “We are all very sorry that the hunter shot Elisio. We have permission to shoot five bears in our area due to population control. It happened as a consequence of a series of unfortunate events. The hunter shot the bear in the evening, when his collar wasn't visible.”. He also explained that weekly reports on the whereabouts of the bear cannot prevent these types of accidents, since bears tend to travel tens of kilometres a day.
This is not the first time Slovenian hunters killed a bear with an Italian research collar. In 2011 a Slovenian hunter shot a bear near Vrhnika, who then turned out to be an Italian media sensation called Dino. In the preceding year Dino managed to kill 14 donkeys in Northern Italy before the Slovenian hunter did not see his collar and shot him in a forest (source). Dino’s survival prospects, however, were dim even without the shooting, as his collar had grown deep into his flesh, causing an infection and starting to slowly suffocate the animal. When the hunter first saw him, Dino was hitting his head against a tree, presumably due to the pain. The collar, unlike the ones in use today, was not equipped with a “drop-off” system, which activates when the collar becomes too small and begins making it difficult for the animal to breath.
STA, 30 November 2018 - Slovenian hunters are getting older and their organisation is struggling with declining membership, which is just one of the challenges. They also oppose culling plans that they have no say in.
The Hunters' Association (Lovske zveze Slovenije) argues that the deer culling plan imposed by the Agriculture Ministry is excessive considering the size of the deer population.
The association has told the STA their members are not in a position to realise the planned culling, but that they face high fines, from EUR 4,100 up per a hunting club, if they do not.
Hunters took 8,229 red deer and 41,869 roe deer from nature last year, which includes large numbers that perished due to extremely low winter temperatures.
Under the plan, hunters should have killed almost 5,000 red deer and 39,986 roe deer.
Despite the large numbers of deer and wild boars lost in last year's winter kill, the Hunters' Association says they have been instructed to implement the culling plan for this year in full.
"We cannot agree with a plan that doesn't take into account the projected deer population trends, but only by the damage done to trees by game."
The Hunters' Association, counting 22,000 members, is worried about dwindling membership numbers. They have also had to withdraw more than 200 hunting licences for various reasons this year.
The average age of hunters is quite high, standing at over 56 at the end of 2017.
Membership is a key source of income for hunting clubs but an important source of income is hunting tourism although the clubs managing hunting grounds pay a concession fee to the state.
Foreign game hunters coming to Slovenia are interested mainly in chamois and bear, but they also hunt other large game.
Hunting tourism is the principal activity of special-purpose hunting reserves. Out of 408 hunting reserves in the country, 12 are special purpose.
Ten of these are managed by the Slovenia Forest Service (SFS) and one by the Triglav National Park, while hunting clubs are responsible for sustainable game management.
Hunting tourism is available to guests from Slovenia and abroad. The guests who are not hunters need to be accompanied by a hunter with a valid hunter's licence.
Apart from domestic guests, it is Austrians, Germans and Italians who come to hunt in Slovenia most often.
Ljubljanski Vrh, one of the ten reserves managed by the SFS, hosted 1,900 guest hunters last year, some of them several times.
The Forest Service made over EUR 1m from hunting tourism last year.
The guest hunter will pay between 600 and 6,500 euro for killing a bear plus a daily hunting fee. A red deer trophy comes at between 215 and 5,500 euro and a roe deer trophy between 50 and 400 euro.
STA, 28 July 2018 - Among the many tourists that visit Slovenia every year, an increasing number decide to go bear watching. In this potentially very dangerous undertaking, visitors must be accompanied by an experienced guide, usually a hunter.
STA, 19 July 2018 - The Slovenian Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning has proposed culling 200 bears and 11 wolves to cope with increasing populations, inviting ire from activists.